Bill Ryan Wraps Up a Prestigious Candy Career

April was a month of milestones for William Ryan, vice president of confectionery sales and marketing for ADM Cocoa. April 30th marked his last day on the job after more than 23 years with the organization. Just a few days prior to that, Ryan was inducted into membership of the National Confectionery Sales Association’s Candy Hall of Fame.
Ryan, who with his wife, Gert, has five children, began his life-long connection to the food industry working part-time during his high school years in Ohio for Isaly’s, the company famous for ice cream Klondikes. While attending college, Ryan was employed full-time for Loblaw Supermarkets, followed by 17 years with Hormel in various sales management capacities.
He made time throughout his years in the confectionery business for active involvement in numerous industry groups including the National Confectioners Association. Earlier this year, he was honored as the recipient of NCA’s 2007 Distinguished Service Award.
He also made time for a quick pre-retirement chat with Confectioner.
Did your career turn out in the way you’d anticipated?
When I made the decision to join Ambrosia Chocolate [which later became part of ADM Cocoa] in late 1984, it was probably one of those mile markers in life. From that point on, things have progressed — not necessarily as I’d anticipated — but in a way I could only have dreamed of.
Looking back, what are some of your fondest professional memories?
I was honored to receive the Henry J. Bornhofft Award (from Retail Confectioners International) in 1995. I also look back [with pride] on some of what I would consider my most satisfying sales — when you achieve that sale that you’ve worked so hard on. And, of course, the people I've worked with over the years, both my co-workers at ADM Cocoa and the many great customers.
Other achievements in which you take pride?
One of the things that has given me a lot of satisfaction is the role I’ve been playing in the last few years as a mentor to some of the younger people joining our company.
What are some of the greatest changes you’ve witnessed in your years in the confectionery industry?
As you look at our customer base today, the thing that stands out most to me is that there are so many fewer family businesses. Mergers and acquisitions have claimed many great brands and many great companies. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure; it’s just what is.
What hasn’t changed?
The fact that chocolate and confectionery is an indulgence that can be part of a healthy lifestyle is something that hasn’t changed, and I hope it never does!
What will you have time to do post-retirement that may have been tough to find enough time for previously?
Spending more time with my grandchildren is one thing. (There are eight, with one more on the way.) I find I am being given more things like fishing poles and golf clubs, so I expect to have more time for that. But the other things I’m going to try to do are some things both within the industry and in my community. I’ve always had a high involvement with United Way, and I will continue with that.
Will you also continue to be involved with the confectionery industry?
ADM Cocoa is trying to find some way that I can do some consulting. I’d enjoy doing that, but I don’t want it to be a job. We’re figuring that out. I may be participating in some trade shows.